At the moment, BMW isn’t on perfect terms with its fanbase. True, die-hard BMW enthusiasts are currently upset with their favorite Bavarian brand, thanks to the fact that it seems to be more concerned with technological advancement, rather than pure driving enjoyment. We’ve discussed this topic ad nauseam, realizing that BMW must adapt or die in this rapidly changing market. But this survival evolution has caused many of BMW’s cars to lose that special spark that once made it the enthusiast’s brand. Fortunately, there are still some cars in the Bavarian lineup that feel purposely built for fun and enjoyment over all else. Fortunately still, we were able to sample one of those cars for a week — the BMW M240i.
On paper, there’s very little to detract from the allure of the M240i, especially our tester. Under the hood lies a variant of the brand’s brilliant new B58 3.0 liter turbocharged I6 engine, a six-speed manual (though an eight-speed auto is optional) and rear-wheel drive. Throw in M Sport brakes, adaptive suspension and sticky Bridgestone Potenza summer tires and you have a good recipe for fun. Ours was even given some M Performance goodies to increase its fun-factor, such as a new front splitter, a display steering wheel II and, most importantly, a limited-slip rear differential. So, for the most part, the spec sheet of our BMW M240i test car seemed like the perfect BMW. Until you glanced down at the price tag.
The way our car was equipped, with the extra M Performance bits and all of its packages, it was actually more expensive than a similarly-equipped BMW M2. The latter car has more power, is faster, performs better and is the actual, real-deal M car. Yet our M240i was a grand or two more, for less performance. So, the question needs to be asked — is it worth buying over the BMW M2?
Over the course of the week with our M240i, we had time to ponder this question, in between a heap of tire smoke and grinning faces. Before we answer that question, though, let’s get into the BMW M240i as a it stands as a car and not compared to anything else.
That aforementioned 3.0 liter engine is an absolute gem of a motor. Making 335 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, it makes the M240i properly quick. With a six-speed manual, the M240i is capable of 0-60 mph in around 4.5 seconds and it feels every bit as quick as that. When combined with the car’s compact size, that turbo-six makes the M240i an absolute weapon on the road. It can shoot gaps in traffic with ease and simply out-muscle a surprising amount of sports cars. It’s not the engine’s power, necessarily, that makes it so impressively quick, it’s the delivery of its power. It’s so silky smooth and so willing to rev, all the while delivering almost all of its torque at around 2,000 rpm. The Baby-M simply rockets off the line and slicing up traffic is as easy as just squeezing your right foot and pointing the wheel where you want to go. It makes easy work of dispatching many miles in rapid succession.
While the engine is absolutely brilliant in its power delivery, it’s even better in the way it makes noise. BMW enthusiasts have been less than enthused with the way modern BMW M cars sound. The S55 engine in the BMW M3/M4 hasn’t garnered a lot of love for its noise. However, this B58 engine sounds superb and better than the M3’s S55 engine. It’s growly and mechanical sounding, much like the BMW I6 engines of yore. There’s induction noise to be heard (though, a bit of it is fake), and the exhaust makes a metallic wail at high revs. It’s just lovely. There are some pops and bangs on throttle lift but they aren’t too much and don’t sound too artificial.
We’ve recently learned that BMW will be dropping the manual transmission option from the 2 Series in North America. This fact made us even happier that our tester was fitted with a six-speed manual. Being the last of its breed, we were really able to savor its charms. Although, it has to be said, it’s not the best manual in the world or even from BMW. Its throws are quite rubbery and notchy, making it a bit of a chore sometimes. However, the clutch is nice a light, but not overly so, and easy to use, making easy work of traffic while also being fun when hustling. Honestly, we were just happy to have a manual, so its quality didn’t matter as much.
One option that we think is an absolute necessity is that limited-slip diff. It’s a bit on the pricey side, costing $2,500, but it’s worth every penny. Not only does it make driving hard more exciting, allowing for burnouts and better skids, but it keeps you safer as well. As my fortune would have it, my inaugural ride in our M240i tester was on the Garden State Parkway in the worst storm and rain I’ve ever driven in. Forward visibility was about six feet before you view became a wall of mist, clouds and rain. In typical New Jersey traffic. It was a nightmare. All the while, I had 369 lb-ft of torque at the ready, rear-wheel drive and extremely aggressive summer tires that are pretty abhorrent in the wet. So that limited-slip diff really kept the rear end planted and safe.
Where it really showed its worth, though, was after I had gotten home, the rain had stopped and the sun came out. On the damp tarmac, the M240i was able to pull of some very fun skids while feeling completely controllable. That rear-diff is a must-have option.
There’s a reason why fans consider the 2 Series to be the 3 Series of the past. Its suspension, ride quality and handling are all reminiscent of older 3 Series’. There’s a tossability to the BMW M240i that reminds me of an E46 Coupe. We put the M240i through its paces, sniffing out every twisty road we could and giving it everything we had. For the most part, the M240i responded well and allowed for some genuinely enjoyable, smile-inducing moments. However, there were some places where we thought the M240i fell down a bit.
Its steering is still to vague. I’m not one to complain too much about the steering feel, or lack thereof, in modern sports cars. I understand the direction of the industry and as long the steering is accurate and lets me place the car exactly where I want, I’m happy. However, the M240i’s wheel is just completely disconnected. It’s very sharp and very accurate but sometimes can get a bit sketchy feeling, as it doesn’t tell you much about what the front end is doing. So on less than perfect road surfaces, it’s not all that confidence-inspiring when being pushed. It’s the only downfall, if I’m being honest, to a car that is a delight to drive.
The suspension does a masterful job of feeling connected and planted while also being comfortable enough for everyday driving. Over really harsh pavement, it can be a bit choppy and it can crash over really bad potholes but, for the most part, the suspension has that old-school blend of compliance and grip that we’re used to from BMW. Over good pavement, it’s almost supple. All the while, there’s little body roll, impressive agility and fantastic balance. The chassis of the 2 Series is easily the best in its class, it just needs a bit of sharpening up in the steering if it wants to be a proper driver’s car. This leads me to the question of whether or not to buy this or the M2.
We had fun with the BMW M240i, we really did. But we were always wanting a bit more out of it, in terms of a pure driver’s engagement. However, the M240i makes up for that by being a great daily driver. While it isn’t the scalpel-sharp driver’s car that the M2 is, it’s more comfortable than the M2 and more livable everyday. It’s also quieter on the inside and doesn’t drone as much on the highway in sixth gear. It’s the better car to live with on a daily basis.
So if you’re asking “what would make a customer buy the BMW M240i (especially one loaded up with performance goodies like ours was) over the M2 for the same money?”, the answer is compromise. The BMW M240i is a car that you buy if you want something properly fast, that handles great and looks really good but is also comfortable, luxurious and quiet when you want it to be. It’s the sports car that you can go out to a nice dinner in without looking like a hooligan, yet still carve up some canyon roads on the way home.
The BMW M240i isn’t a perfect car. Its steering is numb and it’s expensive, but if you want 80-percent of the M2’s performance and are willing to trade some of that car’s crispy BMW M sharpness for some extra comfort and everyday usability, it’s hard to look anywhere other than the BMW M240i. And if you spec some of the M Performance bits we had on our test car, you’re in for the best of both worlds. Should you buy it over an M2? That depends on you, honestly, but we can say that it’s a damn good compromise.